House committee to scrutinize Perez dealings before Senate confirmation vote

The House oversight committee on Tuesday will question the handling of a whistleblower case by President Obama’s pick for labor secretary.

Republicans have said Assistant Attorney General Thomas Perez, head of the Justic Department’s civil rights division, agreed not to intervene in a whistleblower complaint against the city of St. Paul in exchange for the municipality dropping a housing discrimination case it brought to the Supreme Court.

(Molly Riley/AP) - Labor Secretary nominee Thomas Perez testifies on Apr. 18 on Capitol Hill before the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee hearing on his nomination.
(Molly Riley/AP) – Labor Secretary nominee Thomas Perez testifies on Apr. 18 on Capitol Hill before the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee hearing on his nomination.

GOP lawmakers have suggested Perez made the deal for ideological reasons — to keep the Supreme Court from ruling on the legality of protections against housing discrimination.

Key House and Senate Republicans said in an April report that the Justice Department’s failure to intervene in the whistleblower complaint resulted in a missed opportunity to recover up to $200 million in taxpayer funds awarded through “false certifications.”

Perez has denied personal involvement with decision not to sue St. Paul, telling lawmakers during a Senate confirmation hearing in April that lower-level Justice Department attorneys made the decision.

Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), chairman of the House oversight committee, sent a letter to Perez on Monday accusing the Labor nominee of ignoring an April 10 request for personal e-mails relating to Justice Department business.

“Your continued and blatant disregard for a duly issued congressional subpoena is extremely disconcerting, especially coming from one of the nation’s highest law-enforcement officers sworn to uphold the Constitution,” Issa said.

The Justice Department said last week in a letter to Issa that it “expended considerable resources” and “made extraordinary efforts” to accommodate the committee’s requests, claiming Perez had already more than 1,400 pages of documents and searched his personal e-mail account twice.

“We believe that we have satisfied the legitimate oversight interest regarding Mr. Perez’s emails,” the letter said.

In his letter on Monday, Issa responded that “It is not the prerogative of the Department of Justice to determine the interest and expectations of the United States Congress.”

 (Correction: An earlier version of this blog item and its headline incorrectly stated that Perez would testify at the hearing.)

For more federal news, visit The Federal Eye, The Fed Page and Post Politics. To connect with Josh Hicks, follow his Twitter feed, subscribe to his Facebook page or e-mail josh.hicks@washpost.comE-mail federalworker@washpost.com with news tips and other suggestions.

Josh Hicks covers the federal government and anchors the Federal Eye blog. He reported for newspapers in the Detroit and Seattle suburbs before joining the Post as a contributor to Glenn Kessler’s Fact Checker blog in 2011.
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